PORT TOWNSEND — A woman who pleaded insanity at her assault trial in 2008 will be allowed to return to Jefferson County — under electronic monitoring — on Christmas Day.
Sherri Mae Johnston, who was found not guilty of attempted murder and assault due to insanity, has lived in Mason County since the verdict, the prosecuting attorney said.
Johnston, 39, was accused of firing a 12-gauge shotgun at Charles Poindexter in Brinnon on June 5, 2007.
Prosecuting Attorney Juelie Dalzell said conditions of the insanity plea included a requirement that Johnston remain on an electronic home-monitoring ankle bracelet with a tracking system to make sure she stayed out of Jefferson County.
She was also required to remain on medications for mental illness.
Johnston has been residing in Mason County since the restrictions were put in place.
But last Friday, Johnston returned to Jefferson County to appear in court and ask Superior Court Judge Craddock Verser allow her to return to Brinnon on Christmas Day.
Letters from Johnston’s psychiatrist, church pastor, court supervisor and treatment therapist were submitted to the court in an attempt to verify that she had been following her treatment plan and taking medications for schizoaffective disorder.
Meanwhile, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office urged Verser not to grant Johnston’s wish because it would bring stress to the victim and his family who still live in the Brinnon area.
“I made the point that the people writing the letters on her behalf had no knowledge of what she had been charged with,” Dalzell said.
“The state argued against this because the victims still live in the area.”
Poindexter also wrote a letter to the court asking the judge to remember why the court had put the restrictions on Johnston.
“A little over a year ago, we stood before the court as you complimented the defense and prosecution for working out a plan together,” the letter from Poindexter reads.
“The plan brought ‘some’ freedom to the defendant as well as ‘some’ safety to the victims.
“On that day, you also let Sherri know ‘these conditions are for a very long, long time.’
“Now, just a little over a year later, the majority of these conditions are being considered for amendment.
“You have a huge responsibility to review and consider the amendment document before passing judgment, to possibly allow more freedom to Sherri and less safety to the victims, and society in general,” Poindexter wrote to Verser.
But the judge decided to allow Johnston to return to Brinnon on Friday with the continued use of the GPS ankle bracelet.
He placed restrictions on her from traveling outside the immediate area of her family home.
During a pretrial hearing in 2008, Dalzell had warned that there was a possibility that Johnston could re-offend if restrictions weren’t carefully followed when she was permitted bail awaiting trial.
“I argued in court that she was a high risk to re-offend,” Dalzell said.
“Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.”
Before the 2007 attack, Poindexter had made multiple complaints to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office that Johnston had been stalking and harassing him, deputies reported at the time.
On the day Johnston was arrested, according to sheriff’s office reports, Poindexter was parked on the driveway outside his home waiting for law enforcement to arrive after calling them to file a complaint about Johnston.
Johnston drove up behind him, got out of her car with a shotgun and fired at Poindexter through the windshield.
Poindexter ducked when he saw the firearm and was uninjured in the blast.
Johnston climbed back into her car and drove south on U.S. Highway 101, deputies said.
They pursued her at speeds reaching 80 mph, with several cars forced off the road.
The chase ended in Hoodsport in Mason County when Johnston’s tires were slashed by a spike strip laid across the highway by the State Patrol.
Johnston’s bail was set at $500,000 after her 2007 arrest.
At that time, Verser said, “Miss Johnston represents a substantial danger to the community.”
However, according to Sharon Abegg, treating psychiatrist for Johnston, she has been improving since taking her medications on a regular basis.
“She has been 100 percent compliant with her medication,” Abegg wrote in her letter to the court.
“She is always cooperative and pleasant, showing no signs of delusions or hallucinations which can occur with her illness.
“I strongly support granting Ms. Johnson some increased ability to be in the community.”
_________Reporter Erik Hidle can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]